Summary: People have differing views about how faith is expressed and what it looks like when it is expressed. Faith to remove a problem and faith to endure a problem are both illustrated in Hebrews 11. Habakkuk’s struggle with faith is also addressed.
Is Your Faith Working?
I want to begin this morning with a question. Is your faith working? Since the Bible says, “The just shall live by faith” I would consider that question extremely important. Are you living by faith? Martin Luther applied that verse to justification. Certainly no one will be saved without faith in Jesus Christ. The key to being accepted by God is not your good works, but the righteous act of Christ at Calvary. Let me say clearly, I believe Luther was right. Righteousness before God is available through faith in Christ not in our own goodness.
But does that exhaust the meaning of the verse, “The just shall live by faith.”
I. Habbakuk’s Experience
Let’s look at the first place in Scripture where this phrase is given, Habakkuk 2:4. Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah. The spiritual level of God’s people was extremely low and there were all kinds of injustice going on in the Southern Kingdom of Israel. This book is a dialogue between Habakkuk and God. The prophet is baffled as to why God doesn’t immediately intervene and correct the injustices—judge the guilty and defend the innocent. Habakkuk is even more bewildered when God tells him He will judge Israel by giving victory to an even more evil nation, Babylon. Habakkuk deals with the age-old question of why the righteous suffer and why the wicked prosper. It’s important to get that context if we’re to understand the phrase “The just shall live by faith.”
Now look with me at some of the questions Habakkuk asks God in Chapter 1. His first question is in verses 2-4 “ LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear?
Even cry out to You,"Violence!"And You will not save.
3 Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble?
For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises.
4 Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.”
What is the essential question here? “God why don’t you do something about all my troubles and why don’t you do something about all the evil going on around me?”
Look at God’s answer: verse 6 “For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans,
A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth,
To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.” God is telling Habakkuk He is about to judge Israel but that He will do it using the Chaldeans or Babylonians who are even more ruthless than the ungodly in Israel. In verse 11 God even tells Habakkuk the Chaldeans will even ascribe the victory He gives them to false gods rather than to Him.
The rest of chapter 1 is Habakkuk’s response to that. Verse 12 & 13, “Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die.
O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment;
O Rock, You have marked them for correction.
13 You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness.
Why do You look on those who deal treacherously,
And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he?”
So here is Habakkuk basically confronting God for His apparent disinterest in all the injustice that’s going. “If you’re from everlasting, surely you’re able to do something about it. If you’re Holy surely it would be expected that you would intervene. So God, what’s your problem?” Have you ever had those kinds of questions going through your mind? You talk to the man on the street and it’s not long until they’re saying, “If there is a good and righteous God, why does He allow all the pain and suffering of war, why does he allow little children to die of malnutrition?”
To understand the context, you have to understand the Jewish concept of Jehovah. They were so sensitive to His majesty they would not even speak His name for fear that they might use it without proper reverence. This is the God who killed Aaron’s sons for using strange fire in their worship. And Habakkuk has dared to question God’s actions. Hab 2:1
“I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected.”
He’s ducking his head waiting for the lightening to strike. “Oh boy, what am I going to do when He corrects me for asking such questions?”
Hab 2:2-4 “Then the LORD answered me and said:
‘Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. 3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. 4 "Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him;But the just shall live by his faith.”